Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for full compliance with the United Nations arms embargo placed on Côte d’Ivoire after reports that attack helicopters have been provided to forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo.
“The Secretary-General demands full compliance with the arms embargo and warns both the supplier of this military equipment and Mr. Gbagbo that appropriate action will be taken in response to the violation,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued overnight.
“If it is confirmed, this would be a direct violation of the arms embargo [imposed in 2004] by the Security Council,” the Secretary-General said late on Monday, while speaking to the press on a visit to Washington, D.C, adding that the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African country – known as the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) – and the group of experts appointed by the Security Council to monitor the embargo, are trying to verify the facts. “This would be very dangerous in our own effort to resolve this issue peacefully.”
Côte d’Ivoire has been caught in a political deadlock with growing reports of tension and violence – between rival groups as well as on UN peacekeepers – since Mr. Gbagbo refused to leave office after he was defeated by opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in a presidential election held last November, whose result was certified by the UN.
The violation has been brought to the attention of the Security Council committee charged with the responsibility for sanctions against Côte d’Ivoire.
Earlier Monday, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson told reporters that UNOCI had reported that a flight carrying some of the helicopter parts landed at the capital, Yamoussoukro. A team made up of members of the group of experts and an UNOCI official travelled to the city’s airport but was unable to verify the information and was forced to withdraw when they were fired upon by armed elements.
Also on Monday, some media reports identified Belarus as the source of the helicopters and equipment. In a statement posted on the website of the country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in New York, the spokesperson from Belarus’ foreign ministry denied the reports, noting that “the Republic of Belarus has always regarded UN Security Council’s decisions very responsibly.”
Last week, Mr. Ban reiterated his deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Last year’s election was meant to be the culmination of efforts to reunify the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.